Hiring Hackers

I found another good post by Bruce Schneier. This one deals with hiring people with previous criminal histories. More or less Mr. Schneier brings up the fact stating your won’t hire people with a previous criminal history is short sighted and rather ignorant:

The answer, of course, is “it depends.” It depends on the specifics of the crime. It depends on the ethics involved. It depends on the recidivism rate of the type of criminal. It depends a whole lot on the individual.

Then he goes further into the idea of hiring convicted malicious hackers:

Admittedly, there’s a difference between thinking like an attacker and acting like a criminal, and between researching vulnerabilities in fielded systems and exploiting those vulnerabilities for personal gain. But there is a huge variability in computer crime convictions, and — at least in the early days — many hacking convictions were unjust and unfair. And there’s also a difference between someone’s behavior as a teenager and his behavior later in life. Additionally, there might very well be a difference between someone’s behavior before and after a hacking conviction. It all depends on the person.

This is ultimately the key when hiring anybody. Having a criminal history shouldn’t be an instant disqualifies for a job. It all depends on such variables as what the crime was, when the crime was done, what has changed about the person since they committed the crime, etc. Many people with previous criminal backgrounds have very useful skills. It makes sense to hire a person who was convicted of bank robbery to review your bank’s security. The person obviously understands bank security and how to bypass it. Of course it still depends on his character and whether or not he’ll try to rob your bank later. Still he’ll have the hands on experience which is more valuable than theory and book knowledge.

There is also another paragraph that I found very interesting due to previous posts I’ve made about felons on the right to keep and bear arms:

Last winter, a Minneapolis attorney who works to get felons a fair shake after they served their time told of a sign he saw: “Snow shovelers wanted. Felons need not apply.” It’s not good for society if felons who have served their time can’t even get jobs shoveling snow.

The ostracization of people with felonies is out of hand in this country. Somebody who served their time shouldn’t have a problem getting a job again. As I’ve mentioned before if a criminal is still considered a danger to society that person shouldn’t be free to roam the streets. Likewise whether you hire a felon should be based on what the felony was. As I’ve mentioned before just because somebody has a felony doesn’t mean they were a violent criminal.

So having a blanket statement saying you will not hire people with criminal histories puts you and your company at a disadvantage. Sure you will run a slightly smaller risk of having a potential offender in your company but you’ll also not be able to hire some of the best people out there.